Great music is a tightrope act. It is the ability to transmute the grand expanse of the emotional spectrum into pockets of sonic reflection that speak both to the artist and listener without ever feeling too self-indulgent or shallow. And few artists pull off this emotional tightrope act as well as keshi.
Born Casey Luong, the Houston, Texas singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist has seen a veritable explosion in the past year, accumulating over 40 million streams before even signing to Island Records and selling out a tour nigh-instantaneously. Yet, the storm that is brewing under this rapidly rising artist is two-fold. It is one carried by the winds of a post-Soundcloud-era fandom that grows by the day and a sense of lingering, unshakable melancholy.
Whether it be dejection or euphoria, pop or hip-hop, music serves as a connecting thread. These connecting threads between genres, emotions, and the past and present build the sonic and emotional crux of keshi’s latest offering, bandaids. The succinct five-track EP follows the release of his 2019 EP, skeletons, which we heralded as the soundtrack to fleeting summer days.
bandaids follows suit in proper, heart-rending fashion. Highlighting keshi’s innate gift for blending John Mayer-inspired melodic expression with the trap-inspired accents of lofi hip-hop, each and every track arrives at its own delicate note of reflection.
This notion becomes immediately apparent in the EP’s opening track “less of you,” as a haunting falsetto comes into focus against a heavenly mixture of synthetic and acoustic elements. However, what elevates “less of you” and the ensuing remainder of the EP is keshi’s unrelenting vulnerability.
“I’m terrified / No in between / A face on a screen / Ain’t an adequate replacement,” coos keshi in a sentiment that hits almost too close to today’s current reality. The reoccurring themes of relationships falling apart and growing uncertainty bubbles up again in the previously-tracked “blue,” an ode to the growing distance that naturally creeps in between ourselves and others as we get older. keshi spoke further on bandaids, sharing,
“The bandaids record is about vulnerability but also about moving forward, and I hope that in some way it can be your friend in this strange time. It has some of my favorite songs I’ve ever written yet, and I’m so happy to share it with you.”
There is not a dishonest note in keshi’s bandaids. He wears his still-beating heart on his sleeve at every turn, whilst never feeling mired by the emotional weight his words carry – largely thanks to a gift for impeccably-crafted soundscapes that draw largely on the infectious nature of pop, R&B, and hip-hop.
Even in the titular track and closing sentiment, “bandaids,” there is a glimmer of hope, of shared empathy to be found in keshi’ closing words, “I’m afraid / That bandaids / Are no good / For heartache / Not okay / So tell me / When your world is falling down.”
Listen to bandaids below: